Simko Impresses All With Third At Salem
SALEM, IN (09-20-05) - - Many say it's about time. Michael Simko has been called one of the best short track racers in Michigan and with a little luck on his side he lived up to that name last Saturday night at Salem Speedway after finishing a stout third in the Eddie Gilstrap Fall Classics 200 by Advance Auto Parts.
This was the last race of the season for the Auburn Racing team and while they've run well all year long, the finishes were lacking. The team was determined to turn some heads on Saturday and they did.
In the first and only practice session for the ARCA RE/MAX Series of the day, the team was fast. Despite sporting no sponsors on the No. 45 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, the Clarkston, Michigan native posted a very impressive fifth fastest lap with a lap time of 18.038 seconds equaling a speed of 110.766 MPH.
"The car is really good," said the second-generation driver. "We have a good setup underneath this Chevrolet and we're all expecting good things in qualifying and the race."
Simko picked up the pace in time trials, notching a lap of 17.886 seconds or 111.707 MPH. His effort was good enough for ninth on the starting grid. "We would have liked to qualify inside the top-five, but we'll take this and turn all of our efforts towards the race."
At the start of the scheduled 200-lap/200 mile event, Simko quickly fell into a single-file formation while keeping his eyes on the leader and any chance to move up.While maintaining his position inside the top-ten, the No. 4 of Chris Moore spun with Simko sustaining significant left-side damage. The damage was severe enough to send the avid late model competitor to pit road and his Auburn crew to fix the damage. The crew patched up the machine as good as possible and the sent driver back into competition maintaining his position on the lead lap.
He started picking his way back up through the field cautiously working through traffic and marched up to seventh before making a routine pit stop on lap 95. Michael reported to his crew the car was really good, just a bit tight.
During the pit stop, the team made a track bar adjustment and it was the perfect call. He returned to the 0x00bd-mile bullring in about 20th place. "The car was absolutely on a rail and we made it all the way through the field and took the lead." It was very exciting for the entire team to see the No. 45 as number one on the scoreboard. Simko paced the field for an impressive 39 circuits. In the later stages of the race the No. 9 of Joey Miller and No. 20 of Ken Weaver were able to get around Simko. Despite on older tires of Miller and Weaver, Simko's car remained fast and upfront.With an extended amount of caution laps at the end and a thrilling side-by-side race with ARCA competitor Billy Venturini, Simko held off the No. 25 capturing third, a career best finish for the second generation driver and team.
"What a great run this Auburn Racing team has put together to end our 2005 ARCA season," said a very jubilant Michael Simko following the race. "Dating all the way back to Erie in early August, a transmission failure ended a sure top 10 day, to MIS where a late race wreck ended a possible top ten. Then at Toledo we had a great run in the top five until a pit miscue. We have been putting together some great, extremely respectable runs but the finishes haven't been showing until last week at Chicago. A great top-ten run for us gave ussomebigmomentum heading into Salem."
"The car was fast all weekend, from practice, to qualifying and the race, everything went our way and we got the finish we deserve."
"I can't express enough how much I appreciate the help I got this weekend. The guys spent all week in the shop, after their regular jobs, and got the car ready to go. It was truly a team effort this weekend, and they deserve this as much as anyone. What an awesome weekend, can't wait for the 2006 season," concluded Simko who completed all 213 markers.
Auburn Racing will skip the 2005 ARCA RE/MAX Series finale at Talladega Superspeedway and begin preparing for the 2006 season.